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Pentecostalism

Pentecostalism, worldwide 20th–21st-century Christian movement that emphasizes the experience of Spirit baptism, generally evidenced by speaking in tongues (glossolalia). The name derives from Pentecost, the Greek name for the Jewish Feast of Weeks, which falls on the fiftieth day after Passover. On this day the Holy Spirit descended upon the first Christians enabling them to "speak in other tongues" (see Acts 2:1–4). Besides glossolalia, Pentecostals promote other gifts of the Spirit (charismata), including faith healing, prophecy, and exorcism. Ecstatic experience remains the unifying element of the movement. Pentecostals in America are generally conservative evangelical in their beliefs (see fundamentalism), but no unified stance on matters of doctrine and polity exists among adherents. Pentecostal churches are also strong in Indonesia, sub-Saharan Africa, and parts of Latin America and Europe. Pentecostal churches around the world cooperate through the Pentecostal World Conference, first held in Sweden (1939). The American counterpart to the conference is the Pentecostal-Charismatic Churches of North America; it is not a policy-setting organization.

Classical Pentecostalism

What is sometimes called classical Pentecostalism grew out of the late 19th-century Holiness Movement in the United States. The Holiness preacher Charles Fox Parham began preaching (1901) to his Topeka congregation that speaking in tongues was objective evidence of baptism in the Spirit. After Parham's Los Angeles–based Apostolic Faith mission became the center of a great revival (1906), the movement quickly spread around the world. Over the next two decades the movement split along doctrinal and racial lines. Of the many Pentecostalist denominations in the United States today, the largest are the Church of God in Christ, with about 5.5 million members (2000); the Assemblies of God, with about 2.5 million members (2000); the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, with about 1.5 million members (2000); and the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.), with about 870,000 members (2000).

The Charismatic Movement

A second form of Pentecostalism arose in the 1960s after many non-Pentecostals became aware of Pentecostalism through an earlier Pentecostal revival organized by faith-healing evangelists (notably Oral Roberts). The formal origin of the new Pentecostalism or charismatic movement, as it is often called, is traced to Dennis Bennett, an Episcopal minister who declared to his congregation in Van Nuys, California (1961) that he was speaking in tongues. Following Bennett's confession the charismatic movement appeared in nearly all the Protestant denominations, the Roman Catholic church, and, to a lesser extent, in Eastern Orthodox communions. With the support of the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International, founded (1951) to provide lay support for faith-healers, the charismatic movement spread throughout the world.

Other Offshoots

A third type of Pentecostalism consists of independent schismatic offshoots of the mission churches and wholly indigenous sects which adopt or tolerate beliefs and practices such as ancestor worship and polygamy. These Pentecostals, mostly nonwhites, abound in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Pentecostalism has attracted the poor, minorities, and the dispossessed, although it is not limited to these groups. It has also afforded a prominent role to women leaders.

Bibliography

See W. J. Hollenweger, The Pentecostals (1972); V. Synan, ed., Aspects of Pentecostal-Charismatic Origins (1975); R. M. Anderson, Vision of the Disinherited (1979); D. W. Dayton, Theological Roots of Pentecostalism (1987); S. M. Burgess and G. B. McGee, ed., Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (1988); H. Cox, Fire from Heaven (1994); G. Wacker, Heaven Below (2001); R. J. Stephens, The Fire Spreads: Holiness and Pentacostalism in the American South (2008).

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Pentecostal

Pen·te·cos·tal / ˌpentəˈkôstl; -ˈkästl/ • adj. 1. of or relating to Pentecost. 2. of, relating to, or denoting any of a number of Christian sects and individuals emphasizing baptism in the Holy Spirit, evidenced by speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing, and exorcism. • n. a member of a Pentecostal sect. DERIVATIVES: Pen·te·cos·tal·ism / -ˌizəm/ n. Pen·te·cos·tal·ist / -ist/ adj. & n.

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Pentecostal

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Pentecostalism

PENTECOSTALISM

Pentecostalism began as a modern religious movement in 1900 at the Bethel Healing Home in Topeka, Kansas. Its fusion with revivalist forms of piety produced the Holiness Movement and a bewildering number of Protestant Pentecostal churches. More recently Protestant Pentecostalism has manifested growing ecumenical interest and openness. Neo-Pentecostalism is an interdenominational movement involving Christians from almost every existing church communion, including Roman Catholics. One must then distinguish denominational Protestant Pentecostalism from Neo-Pentecostalism.

Protestant Pentecostalism. Protestant Pentecostal piety is Biblical piety. It looks to Scripture as divinely inspired and infallible, and regards the Word of God as superior to reason and conscience, though not contrary to either. Protestant Pentecostals tend to regard every word of Scripture as divinely inspired; and their fundamentalistic tendencies incline them to be suspicious of "modern theology" and "liberal exegesis," which they believe often ignores or distorts the literal sense of Scripture. Such devotion to the inspired Biblical word endows the Pentecostal use of Scripture, in both personal and shared prayer, with ultimate authority and ritual significance. Protestant Pentecostals are more inclined to celebrate God's Word as a personal grace than to reflect on it with academic scholarship.

As a group Protestant Pentecostals hold to orthodox trinitarian theology, although a small group of Unitarian Pentecostals reject the Trinity as scripturally unfounded. As a group, Protestant Pentecostals affirm the two natures of Christ, the virgin birth, and the redemptive atonement effected by the blood of Jesus.

Protestant Pentecostal piety is preoccupied with personal religious conversion. It insists that Jesus has already fulfilled the divine conditions for spiritual regeneration and that the experience of conversion and Spirit baptism are therefore available to all. In the act of conversion, one turns away from sin and receives salvation in Christ. The Spirit baptized are, however, said to receive a "second blessing," subsequent to the grace of conversion. Most Protestant Pentecostals equate Spirit baptism with the reception of the gift of tongues, although some see tongues only as the inauguration of Spirit baptism. This belief is largely grounded in the more fundamental belief that the experience of Spirit baptism described in Acts 2 is normative for all Christians. The theological dissociation of conversion from the reception of the Spirit and the equation of the latter with the gift of tongues are both commonly rejected by theologians of other communions.

Some Protestant Pentecostals distinguish a third stage in the conversion process, that of sanctification. "Third-stage" Pentecostals are, however, divided over the question of the instantaneous or gradual character of sanctification.

Protestant Pentecostals believe that all the Pauline gifts are available to believers today, including tongues, prophecy, healing, and miracles. They practice faith healing and claim both physical cures and the psychic "healing of memories." In their approach to healing there is the tendency to affirm that no sickness, depression, and poverty can be sent by God and that these sufferings are often demonic in origin.

Protestant Pentecostals as a group recognize only two sacraments: baptism and the Lord's Supper. They regard baptism as an external sign of an inner grace that has already been given. Many reject infant baptism, but a significant minority practice it. The Lord's Supper is looked upon as a memorial meal symbolizing the atoning sacrifice of Jesus and expressing the personal faith of the worshiping community. Some Protestant Pentecostals also practice foot washing in obedience to Jesus' command in Jn 13.14, but they are divided as to its obligatory character.

As a group Protestant Pentecostals are ethically conservative. They believe in the Sabbath rest, and some practice tithing. Some are religious pacifists and reject military service. Most are opposed to smoking and alcoholic beverages. Some reject the consumption of pork and ban musical instruments, movies, slang, jesting, swimming, fairs, theaters, make-up, hairwaving, loud clothes, short skirts, etc. These rigoristic tendencies are both a protest against moral laxity and an ascetical bulwark against backsliding.

Protestant Pentecostal piety often has a chiliastic character. It tends to affirm the immanence of the second coming of Jesus. Its other-worldly caste leads it to minimize the importance of political involvement and social reform. Classical Protestant Pentecostalism tends to be suspicious of ecumenicism.

Neo-Pentecostalism. The fusion of Protestant Pentecostal piety with the religious traditions of other mainline churches has given rise to Neo-Pentecostalism. Neo-Pentecostals reflect the doctrinal pluralism of the different communions to which they belong. As a group they are ecumenical in bent, although they derive much of their popular forms of piety from the Protestant Pentecostal tradition.

Whatever their church affiliation, Neo-Pentecostals gather regularly for spontaneous shared prayer. These gatherings are either denominational or ecumenical in tone. In their prayer they are concerned to "focus on the Lord." This phrase usually implies that the presence of the Lord will become manifest in the activities of the praying community: in the reading of Scripture, in praying and singing in tongues, in prophecy and the interpretation of messages in tongues, in personal witness to graces received, in spontaneous and rote prayers, in hymns, and in healings.

The fusion of Pentecostal forms of piety with that of the more traditional, institutional churches can produce pastoral concern and even apprehension among the hierarchy and "non-Pentecostal" membership. Neo-Pentecostals are most often criticized for the "elitist" and "fundamentalistic" tone of their rhetoric and for their lack of active involvement in social reform.

Catholic Neo-Pentecostalism began as a movement in 1966 at Dusquesne University. It spread throughout the United States and Canada and has taken hold in South America and in Europe. On Nov. 14, 1969, the American bishops gave a cautious and tentative approval to the movement and encouraged prudent priests to provide sacramental and pastoral ministry to charismatic Catholics. Since then it has won a growing acceptance from the hierarchy. In 1973 a meeting of the international leadership of the movement was held in Rome.

Among Catholics, the Neo-Pentecostal movement tends to be referred to as the "Catholic charismatic renewal." Catholic charismatics as a whole manifest strong devotion to the institutional, sacramental Church and welcome priestly leadership. Most attend Mass in their parishes and are concerned to be accepted by their fellow Catholics. They tend to regard the charismatic renewal as Church renewal and believe that the renewal of charismatic piety was prepared providentially by Vatican Council II, which refocused attention on the Holy Spirit and his gifts.

The Neo-Pentecostal movement is forcing a theological reevaluation within the Catholic community of the gifts and their place in a sacramental, hierarchical tradition. And it is providing many Christians of different communions with a meaningful shared prayer experience.

See Also: pentecostal churches.

Bibliography: f. d. brunner, A Theology of the Holy Spirit (London 1971). j. dunn, Baptism in the Holy Spirit (Naperville, Ill.1970). w. holnweger, The Pentecostals: The Charismatic Movement in the Churches (Minneapolis 1972). e. o'connor, CSC, The Pentecostal Movement in the Catholic Church (South Bend 1971). d. l. gelpi, SJ, Pentecostalism: A Theological Viewpoint (New York 1971).

[d. l. gelpi]

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Pentecostalism

Pentecostalism


This entry has two unique essays about the same topic, differing mainly in their geographical focus.

Pentecostalism in Latin America and the Caribbean
Carmelo Álvarez

Pentecostalism in North America
David D. Daniels III

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